Meet Karen! Her Regenexx success story is a must-read because of the profound impact it has had on her life. Karen was able to go from barely moving without pain, to enjoying life pain-free.
At Regenexx at New Regeneration Orthopedics, we often have patients with “simple injuries,” such as an ankle sprain, knee meniscus tear or arthritis in a joint. Those issues are single-variable slam dunks in the world of regenerative medicine procedures. However, we also see patients with large medical resume, so to speak, which makes their treatment cases less straightforward.
Now, in Karen’s case, she came to Dr. Leiber of Regenexx at New Regeneration Orthopedics, not just with severe knee pain, hip pain and shoulder pain (more on that soon), but with a pretty extensive list of complicating factors like cancer radiation treatment, lymphedema and chronic orthopedic issues.
As you get to know Karen’s story, it’s important to know the why of getting her out of her limiting pain. She was in so much pain that it was limiting her from doing what she loves, traveling to different places and gardening at her homes. The pain was so significant that not only did it prevent her from gardening, but she had to have a wheelchair for a trip last year in New York, even getting around comfortably was hard. At its worst, Karen said her pain was an 8 out of 10 and even made sleeping and rest difficult, much less walking and gardening. She was tired of being limited by severe pain and wanted to get back to enjoying life.
This is her story.
Karen’s Medical Journey
In 2021, when Karen took a trip to New York, she had to have a wheelchair to get around due to the pain in her knee and hip. She described the pain as “Constant. [I had] right knee pain all the time. It was difficult to sleep and to do anything. It was difficult to even be at rest without pain.”
Karen’s pain was a lifetime of accumulated stressors on the body:
She was in an accident where she was hit by a car as a pedestrian when she was 10, causing back pain early in life. She later sustained two sports injuries in her teens, one when running hurdles and one when water skiing, contributing to her physical limitations.
Then, later in life, Karen was diagnosed with cancer and underwent radiation treatment. From the radiation treatment and a lymph node removal, she developed lymphedema in her legs. Lymphedema is swelling that shows up when extra fluid builds up in your tissue when your lymphatic system isn’t working well. In the case of lymph node removal, and Karen’s right leg, it compromises her body’s ability to process the lymph fluid, leaving the leg chronically swollen.
The lymphedema causes a pooling and stagnation of blood and lymph, making Karen more susceptible to inflammation and infection within the tissues of the leg. When this happens, it can cause Karen to develop cellulitis, a skin and tissue infection in her legs.
Additionally, she had to take a powerful antibiotic, Cipro, several times in the recent months before her pain intensified to the point where she was seeking medical interventions. Cipro is a drug surrounded by caution tape because it is known to have a strong link to tendonitis and even tendon rupture.
When the pain became severe enough, Karen went to an orthopedic doctor. This doctor performed x-ray and MRI studies. The orthopedist said she needed a total knee replacement (TKR) on her right knee. She did not want to have the TKR (or any surgery for that matter) due to possible complications from lymphedema in the legs, so the doctor recommended a cortisone shot. The cortisone brought relief for about two weeks, which was wonderful. However, unfortunately, the pain came back gradually and it didn’t take long to get back to the severe pain it had been before.
At this point in her journey, Karen had a friend who told her about the amazing results she had with similar, severe knee pain after seeing Dr. Leiber at Regenexx at New Regeneration Orthopedics. Her friend strongly suggested that Karen schedule an evaluation with Dr. Leiber, to see what he might recommend for her pain.
Karen went to Regenexx to have an evaluation of her knee with Dr. Leiber. In her evaluation, Dr. Leiber spent an hour discussing her medical history, performing a comprehensive orthopedic exam, and looked at her painful area with a diagnostic ultrasound. In the orthopedic exam, he performed range of motion tests for the legs, including the hips and knees, since the main complaints were pain in the right knee and weakness and pain in the left hip.
Karen came to the visit with a previous knee MRI that demonstrated she had severe osteoarthritis in the right knee, as well as meniscus pathology and even bone marrow edema, or swelling extending from the outer cortex into the marrow within the bone of the knee.
Dr. Leiber evaluated the strength in the muscles of the legs and found significant weakness in the left leg with the hip pain. In his exam, he learned the left hip is not as painful as it is weak. When describing the hip pain and weakness, Karen would point to her buttocks area, or where the hamstring meets the buttock muscle.
He noted the lymphedema and history of recurrent cellulitis in the legs as a possible complication to consider when evaluating her candidacy for a procedure to treat the knee pain. So, Dr. Leiber proceeded with an ultrasound examination of the hip and buttock area where there was pain and weakness. He found inflammation of the tendons in the hip stabilizing muscles and partial tearing. Based on this, they pursued an MRI of the hip to see deeper into the hip pathology.
The MRI of the left hip revealed a hamstring tear in addition to tearing and tendonitis in the hip stabilizing muscles. The tear of the hamstring was likely related to the multiple courses of Cipro antibiotics. There were also degenerative changes to the joint and labrum noted. The weakness in the hip was confirmed to be from muscle atrophy in the hip, as seen on her MRI, as a result of the radiation therapy.
Dr. Leiber described, “Karen has a super-interesting case,” and with this combination of procedures and physical therapy, he is so pleased that “her pain is gone and the weakness is greatly improved, allowing her to function much better.”
Then, these promising results inspired Karen and Dr. Leiber to address other issues she was having. She subsequently had a BMAC procedure in a painful shoulder, which also responded very well to the procedure and physical therapy.
Most recently, Dr. Leiber treated the right knee. He used a combination of PRP and a hyaluronic acid injection. This was just several weeks ago, and Karen is already feeling relief and reports moving around better. Specifically, Karen said:
He did PRP and HA gel in the knee [several] weeks ago and I have already improved. My goal was pain relief because I was limited in everything – every step was agony. Being able to walk in the mountains now when we are in New York is wonderful.
Karen Gets Back To Doing What She Loves
When Karen describes some of the most profound results she has noticed, besides being able to simply get around without pain, she says, “My balance is better and I’m not falling. The hip procedure helped with that a lot right away and the knee has also improved this.”
So, now that Karen has had the opportunity to get out of pain, she can get back to what she really loves: traveling and making things beautiful in her gardens.
When people ask her, What would you tell someone considering a Regenexx procedure? Karen exclaims, “I recommend Regenexx to everybody!” She adds:
Before they do anything drastic like a surgery, they should at least have a consultation with [the Regenexx physicians]. They will tell them exactly what the best move is. I trusted [Dr. Leiber] right away. He was incredibly informative. I loved that I could sit there while he was doing the ultrasound and he was describing what he was seeing in real-time. It was very informative, and as a person who also loves to learn, I found that to be a very positive experience.
Our Regenexx physicians truly live and work to see these types of positive changes and impacts on patients’ lives. We love sharing these stories because this is why we do what we do every day. Stories like Karen’s fuel us to keep offering the best alternative to orthopedic surgery.
If you or someone you love could benefit from a Regenexx procedure, contact us now!